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Sainsbury Laboratory


Task 6: Build a plant maze

Live Chat with Scientists - 2pm BST on Friday 9 October 2020


Have you ever noticed how plants grow towards the light, whether they are seedlings in the ground or pot plants in your house? But how do plants move? And how do they know where to move? Join a plant maze challenge to explore this mechanism with our scientists!


Using a cardboard shoe box and cardboard cut-outs, create a maze for a seedling to navigate as it grows towards light coming from a hole in the top of the box.

You will need:

    • Bean seeds*
    • A small plastic pot and some soil
    • A cardboard shoe box
    • Some extra cardboard
    • Scissors
    • Glue or tape
  1. Put a bean in a glass of water to soak overnight.
  2. Plant the seed in a pot of soil, burying it 2-3 cm below the surface. Water the pot so that the soil is damp.
  3. Get your box ready: cut a hole in the middle of the short side of a cardboard shoe box to let the light into it.
  4. Starting from what will be the bottom of your maze (the short side without the hole in it), measure the height of your pot + a few cms further up. Mark that height on the side of the box, make a cardboard cutout as deep as the box but not quite as wide, and tape it in, parallel to the short sides of the box.
  5. Continue adding additional pieces of cardboard on alternating sides of the box, creating a maze.
  6. Stand your box upright, put your pot with the planted bean inside the bottom of the box and cover it with a lid.  Put it in a sunny place.
  7. Water the pot regularly, and every few days, have a look at what your plant is doing. Take a photo of your plant inside of the box to make a time-lapse series of images. Did your plant solve your maze?

Share your photos with other PlantTaskmasters by posting on Twitter - remember to include @slcuplants and #PlantTaskmaster. As this project takes a few weeks to complete, we will organize a live session to discuss your findings and questions at 2pm BST 9 October 2020 – check our Twitter account for updates.

*Beans are a good choice of seed as they germinate quickly, and you might have some at home already. You might want to plant several seeds in separate pots, to make sure at least one germinates. You can also use different seeds, but you will have to find out how to germinate them before you put them in the maze - some may need light to germinate, some even need cold. If you are feeling inspired, why not build several mazes and run a little competition between different seedlings? You could use seedlings from the same species or from different ones. Do you think the seedlings will take the same time to solve the maze if they come from the same species? Do you think some species will be better at solving the maze than others?